"No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session" — Judge Gideon J. Tucker, New York surrogate, 1866
For at least the 147 years since Judge Tucker wrote those famous words, Americans have regarded state legislatures with healthy suspicion, if not outright disdain. And as the exasperated Tucker noted, state legislative bodies have maintained their reputation the hard way: They've earned it.
Here in Colorado, legislators have kicked photographers, had sex with prostitutes and teenagers (on one occasion, with both a teenage boy and a teenage girl), stolen money from friends, supporters, spouses, children, parents, grandparents and business partners, duped investors, driven drunk, and chased a girlfriend down the street armed with a screwdriver. And when they took a break from swindling and carousing, they legislated.
That has not always been a good thing. Lord Acton's famous maxim, that absolute power corrupts absolutely, begins with these words: "Power tends to corrupt."
Join the power of individual state legislatures to partisan objectives and you have a recipe for ... well, it depends upon your partisan affiliation.
Partisan Colorado Democrats love this year's Legislature. Partisan Arkansas and North Dakota Republicans love their state legislatures.
In North Dakota, Republicans passed a bill that essentially banned abortions. Never mind Roe v. Wade, settled law or that this issue is as easy to solve as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let's do it.
In Arkansas, the General Assembly overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a similar bill. Its sponsor, Rep. Jason Rapert, crowed cheerfully: "It's a great day for Arkansas; it's a great day for America."
Arkansas' doughty GOPsters then turned to other pressing issues, de-funding Planned Parenthood and requiring voters to show IDs at the polls.
Walk through the looking glass, and you're in Colorado. Democrats approved a fistful of anti-gun measures clothed in the feel-good language of massacre prevention. Gunnies reacted like furious pit bulls chained and taunted by Chihuahuas. Hundreds converged on the Capitol, jamming hearing rooms and trying to "persuade" dominant Dems to reconsider.
Having eaten the gunnies' lunch, Colorado Dems turned to civil unions. The bill easily passed; can full-fledged gay marriage be far behind? Many of us would welcome such a development, and would prefer to ignore the concerns of the shrinking minority that continues to oppose marriage equality.
This all may seem like politics as usual, the endless iterations of the culture war symbolized by partisan antics of state legislators.
It's not. This is the endgame. The battles may continue, but the war is over.
Eight years ago, Americans opposed gay marriage 58 percent to 32 percent. Today, they support it by the same margin. Eight years ago, George W. Bush began his second term, and Republicans were everywhere ascendant. Today, Barack Obama is in his second term, and polls show that Hillary Clinton would trounce either Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush by 11 points — in their home state of Florida!
Even the most delusional of Republicans realize what that means.
If Democrats hold the White House for the next 12 years, deaths and retirements will lead to major realignment of the Supreme Court. It won't be 5-4 conservative, but 6-3 or 7-2 liberal/moderate. That will spell the end of voter-suppression schemes, marriage inequality, state-mandated abortion prohibition, public school de-funding, and easy access to assault weapons.
Democrats know they've won. Republicans know they've lost, so they're circling the wagons. Their only hope is to suppress emerging majorities, energize the base, and hope the country somehow comes back around.
Gentlemen, it's the last days of the Confederacy. It's time to quit the battlefield, return home and build statues to honor your not-yet-fallen heroes.
Therein lies opportunity for Colorado Springs! Where else to put the Karl Rove library and the statue of Jim Dobson? What more congenial retirement city for the once-powerful mandarins of the extreme right?
Let's start by obtaining the equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from Memphis, where Confederate generals aren't as popular today.
Imagine it in America the Beautiful Park! I can hardly wait...